By Tim Krohn
NORTH MANKATO — The proposed redevelopment of a prime corner on Webster Avenue and Range Street, along Highway 169, got the blessing of the North Mankato City Council Monday night.
Local developers Max DeMars and Marty Walgenbach, partners in the 1111 Holdings of Mankato, have an agreement to buy the property at 1111 Range Street, which was the former Norwood Inn/Best Western hotel. The building has for the past couple of years been used to house workers of a Windom pork-processing plant.
The council unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the plan to create a 120,000-square-foot mixed-use development that would include 75 one-bedroom apartments and commercial and retail space.
The Planning Commission recommended the conditional use permit be approved with several requirements attached, including that signage conform to city code, the parking lots be resurfaced and that a landscaping plan is submitted.
The project will bring 75 market-rate, one-room apartments. They would come from converting the 150 former hotel rooms, using two rooms to make one apartment.
New retail space would be added at the front of the building and new retail space would be added along the Webster Avenue side of the building. There are, as of yet, no details on tenants for the commercial and retail spaces.
The developers have purchase agreements to buy the liquor store on the corner of Webster and Range Street, which would be demolished and replaced by another standalone commercial building.
They also have a purchase agreement on a vacant lot between the Norwood Inn and Plaza Jalisco restaurant (former Perkins).
The developers are proposing that the lot will become a future hotel. It would be built along Range Street, facing Highway 169, in the northeast corner of the property.
There was a neighborhood meeting held on March 23 regarding the project. All property owners within 500 feet of the Norwood were invited to the meeting and city staff attended. No participants objected to the proposed project.
City code requires two off-street parking spaces per apartment unit. But the developers requested allowing 1.5 parking spaces per unit — 113 stalls total — because all of the apartments would be one-bedroom.
Matthew Lassonde, city planner, said the Planning Commission agreed that fewer parking stalls would be needed.
“Given these are one bedroom apartments it’s likely many of them will have only one vehicle. The target (market) is young professionals who would likely have just one vehicle,” Lassonde said.
He said the total project would have about 300 parking spaces.
Walgenbach said they want fewer parking spaces so they can add more green spaces to the site.
“There isn’t a stitch of grass there now,” he said, saying that more green space they hope to add will make the area more pleasing.
The council approved the plan with fewer parking spots.
Because the commercial and retail tenants aren’t yet known, the number of required parking spaces for those businesses isn’t known. City staff said that if there is not enough off-street parking for whatever businesses move in, the developer would have to create enough additional off-street parking on the land they are proposing for a future hotel.
Staff said the project fits with the city’s comprehensive plan by increasing residential housing units and supporting additional commercial and retail spaces and reusing existing buildings.
In early 2021 the city began taking over the property, which had fallen into disrepair and was the center of complaints when it was operated for a few years as Norwood Inn.
The city, through its Port Authority, purchased the property for $3.2 million and signed a 24-month agreement with HyLife Foods, which has used the former hotel to house 150-200 workers from their Windom pork processing plant.
The city’s lease agreement with HyLife ends in August, but the company can give a 30-day notice to end the agreement early. HyLife leaving the site early became more likely after the company last week announced they plan to permanently close their Windom pork processing plant soon and lay off all employees.
Walgenbach, owner of an electric business and a communications/security business, recently led the construction of a new commercial apartment building that filled a gap on Belgrade Avenue and has been involved in other local and area projects.
DeMars owns DeMars Construction and has been involved in several developments in Mankato and North Mankato.
Their proposed redevelopment would tie in with efforts by the city and Mankato to see redevelopment along the Highway 169 and Webster Avenue corridors.
An apartment complex development on the site of the dilapidated Dutler’s Bowl is expected to start this year. That property is in the city of Mankato, as is Hiniker Pond and properties to the north.
David Schooff, of Coldwell Banker Commercial, is leading the effort there to build 78 one-bedroom apartments, 26 two-bedroom apartments and 24,000 square feet of commercial space.
By Tim Krohn